A helicopter flies over the village of High Rock after delivering emergency supplies in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian In High Rock, Grand Bahama, Tuesday, September 10. (AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa)
By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
IN the High Rock community alone, more than a dozen persons are still missing and feared dead in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian - one of the most destructive and deadliest storms in the history of the Bahamas.
Pastor Jenese Pinder, a native of East End, lost seven of his relatives in the storm – two sisters, Levette Munnings and Sherlene Cooper; his nephew and grandnephew, DJ and Omari Munnings; and three other cousins.
They are among some 14 persons in High Rock that were swept away when the area experienced a surge of up to 20ft that reached the roof tops of most houses in the area. Some persons had to flee to the ceiling and attics of their homes and had to cut a hole in the roof so they would not drown.
“They had to stick their heads out the roof, and that's how they survived,” said Mr Pinder. “They never expected anything like this to happen.”
Mr Pinder hasn’t seen his relatives since the storm and no bodies have been recovered.
Before the storm, an official evacuation order was issued for East Grand Bahama.
“A lot of people were encouraging them to come to Freeport because of the (wind strength that was projected). That was a big concern, but they did not want to leave. They thought it would be all right, but the surge caught them off guard.”
According to Pastor Pinder, the house they were in had collapsed during the storm, and they were swept off in the surge.
Grand Bahama had never experienced any loss of lives in the past two hurricanes, until now. But Dorian was not like past storms – it was a category five storm, with winds up to 200mph, that sat for two days over the island.
Many communities were left unrecognisable and there has been significant property loss in the wake of the storm. The official death toll now stands at 52, with thousands still missing in Abaco, and Grand Bahama.
Three days before the storm, Pastor Pinder and his two nephews, DJ and Omari, went around and assisted others in High Rock, particularly the elderly and widowed residents, with battening their houses.
After assisting as many persons as they could, he returned to Freeport. However, Omari and DJ, stayed with his two sisters at their mother’s house, which is about 150-ft from the water on the front road along the bayside.
“Somehow, the house collapsed and it was swept off the foundation when the surge came in, and they were swept out the house; we have not seen them since,” he said.
Mr Pinder said it is hard accepting that they’re gone. “It is very devastating,” he said, of losing so many loved ones all at once.
He recalled a recent vacation trip to Florida with his sister. “We had recently returned from vacation and we had a wonderful time; we would always go on vacation together and I never knew that would be the last time with her,” he said.
Mr Pinder grew up in High Rock and said that his family had expected some damage, but nothing like this.
“They thought that it would be a lot of wind and breeze; that some shingles would blow off – they never thought the surge would flood (the house).”
“The family is taking this hard losing so many members in the storm. Their bodies have not been recovered, and so it is much harder for us to have some closure,” he said.
Pastor Pinder noted that the High Rock community is still reeling from the tragedy as some 14 persons are missing from that one community alone.
“We are a close-knit family community here and so we are all hurting from this,” he said. “Only God knows everything. We may ask the question why, but we must be thankful we are here because it could have been anyone of us. We must trust God in the midst of everything,” he said.
The entire East End community, from Gold Rock Creek to McLean’s Town on the mainland, and Sweeting’s Cay, were devastated. The 33 residents who remained behind on the cay during the storm, have survived.